About 14 years ago, Oklahoma City writer and filmmaker Mark Faulk hit a “middle-class phase” in his life and decided to invest in the stock market.
At the time, he knew next to nothing about investing, but had a friend who was doing well in a company and thought he might put his money to work in his friend’s business.
Today, Faulk has written over 200 articles on market fraud and is associate producer and field director of “The Wall Street Conspiracy,” a documentary that examines the issue of “naked short-selling” and how it led to the collapse of the U.S. banking system in 2008.
A free screening of the film will take place at 6 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tahlequah. Faulk will attend the screening, and will host a discussion period after the film.
In a phone interview, Faulk talked about how he became interested in writing about financial markets and fraud.
“Oddly for me, I had a whole middle-class phase and did a little investing in 2000, before the mini-collapse [of the stock market],” he said. “I did really well and was watching the technical side of how stocks were managed and traded, but stayed in too long and lost money. Four years later, after [George W.] Bush came into office and the wars were in full swing, I created a political social blog, and thought I should write something about the market. I watched logic on Wall Street fly out the window, and when trading was happening, all the normal laws seemed to no longer apply.”
According to the film’s website, naked short-selling entails selling stock in a public company that a person does not own and never delivers to the buyer. Thirty years ago, stock physically changed hands, in person, between a buyer and a seller on Wall Street. Today, transactions are made electronically, and according to Faulk, in many cases, the stock is never delivered.
“So I wrote one article, ‘Financial Terrorism in America,’” said Faulk. “It had a very hyperbolic title to create discussion. Within a week, it got a million hits on a brand-new little website, and 200 emails, some people saying they had no idea what I was talking about, and others saying I had hit just the tip of the iceberg. That was it. Nobody else was writing about it, and I got looped in.”
Three years, 200 articles, several trips to Washington, D.C., to visit with the Security and Exchange Commission, and a number of members of Congress later, he says he’s on the Transportation Safety Administration watch list.
“It was accidental synchronicity. I didn’t plan it in any way,” Falk said. “I began not understanding what ‘the ticker’ at the bottom of the TV was, and now I can argue for nine hours in depth on the corruption of the markets.”
Faulk has been detained twice at airports since the film was produced, most recently in Minneapolis. As a fair-haired, light-skinned person, Faulk may not fit the mainstream idea of someone who would be targeted by the TSA as a threat.
“I was stunned by it,” said Faulk. “I’ve adapted to it, and now realize that I’m going to be delayed at least 45 minutes, if not several hours, by TSA. I had to call the ACLU and some of the attorneys I’ve worked with just to find out how best to handle it. When you say we [people like Faulk don’t look like the typical person who might be detained, we do. We are the new face of ‘terrorism,’ those who poke at the status quo, who ask questions and expect answers.”
Faulk believes he’s been targeted for a combination of reasons, including his involvement with the Occupy movement.
“I was one of the coordinators for the Occupy Oklahoma movement,” said Faulk. “I think the higher-profile people have been flagged [by TSA]. I flew back and forth from New York for 18 months [before Occupy], but had been writing about financial stuff and nothing happened. The first time I got flagged and told I was on the no-fly list, which turned out to be the ‘selected list,’ was when I was set to fly out to New York to see the premier of the film and I had been involved with Occupy. I think I was pulled because of Occupy, and when they checked my background and found the information about the film, it created problems. My resume added to the issue.”
Nevertheless, Faulk maintains his passion in sharing his knowledge, as he believes the fallout from the financial fraud affects everyone. He said the film is easy for the common person to understand, despite the topic’s complicated nature.
“When I started writing about it, or the reason I caught on as someone writing about the topic, is because I was uneducated and I was learning as I went along,” said Faulk. “I was only one step ahead of what I was writing, and wrote it in simple terms for everyone to understand.”
He said while the fraud began small, it has grown to encompass all aspects of people’s finances.
“It affects people on several different levels,” said Faulk.
“The type of fraud we talk about - stock counterfeiting, or naked short-selling - once they discovered this technique, they did it with mortgages and futures markets, which affect oil prices. It went from small publicly-traded companies, but now someone goes into a judge because their house is being foreclosed on, and the judge tells the person their mortgage is owned by four different companies. This electronic trading has no paper - no shares, no titles. You don’t know whether you actually own it of not, which is the basis of fraud. It affects pension funds, mutual funds, everything.”
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